Vibrant Small Town Boating Hub
The remote yet vibrant small town boating hub of Georgetown, Maryland, is eight miles past the confluence of the Upper Chesapeake Bay and the serpentine Sassafras River. Once a thriving port that was a base of continental supplies during the Revolution, the British, led by Admiral George Cockburn, decided to come on up during the War of 1812 and torch the town.
At least, that was the plan until they ran into Catherine “Kitty” Knight, a well connected niece of a Maryland Assembly member renowned for her beauty and determination. By the time the British troops climbed the hill to the last few houses in Georgetown, the village below was a bonfire. Most of the residents had fled. Not Kitty Knight. She refused to leave her bedridden neighbor. Admiral Cockburn was about to set fire to the house when Kitty Knight confronted him. He warned her to leave. She refused, saying, “If you burn this house, you burn me with it.” Struck by her bravery and her beauty, he spared that house and the one next to it.
These days boaters rather than British soldiers come on up the Sassafras River to reach the brother villages of Georgetown and Fredericktown, named for two sons of King George III. As you approach the bridge and the thicket of marinas, you can still see those two brick houses—now joined to make the Kitty Knight House—sitting majestically atop the hill.
Things to See and Do
Within the townships of Georgetown and Fredericktown, ideal ways to pass the day include walking or biking the mile or so from the bridge to Galena where you can visit the library or play with the kids at Galena’s Town Park. Treasure hunters can almost fill a rainy day in the antique shops in town. The first Saturday in May is Galena’s Dogwood Festival with a parade, rides and food.
There are quiet coves where you can cool off in the Sassafras. Ordinary Point is a particular favorite. Or, each of the marinas has a pool; staying in a transient slip gives you dunking privileges. The Sassafras Boat Parade on the Fourth of July attracts a varying group of outlandish entries followed at night by fireworks on the river.
Restaurants and Provisions
- The Granary Restaurant & Sassafras Grill (410-275-1603): Friday through Sunday in season you may grab more casual chow downstairs at the Sassafras Grill. Monday nights are half-price hamburgers and half-price pitchers of beer. Tuesday night is family night. Desserts are to die for.
- Twinny’s Place (410-648-5784): renowned for its subs and homemade soups, both serve three meals a day. You’ll find them a mile or so from the drawbridge down Route 213 in Galena.
- Otwell’s Market (410-648-5111): is your best choice for provisions in Galena. Though Galena is small, there is also a convenience store, liquor store and pharmacy.
- Harbor Café (410-275-2300): in Fredericktown cooks up great pizza, Italian dishes, and sandwiches at lunch and full entrees at dinner. Additionally, with 48 hours’ notice, the café’s proprietors John and Susan Arcuicci will offer catering.
- Sassafrass Harbor Marine Store (410-275-2666 ) has a diverse selection of marine supplies.
- Georgetown Yacht Basin (410-648-5360), located across the bridge, has as marine store. And you can borrow a bicycle if you’re staying in one of their slips.
- Elkton, north of the river and Big Elk Creek is about a 30-minute drive north and has a bit more to offer that Georgetown in the way of shopping. You'll find plenty of stores like Redners Market (410-620-9150) and Food Lion (410-287-5177) offering the usual variety of grocery store items. Bay Ace Hardware (410-398-1111) and American Home and Hardware (410-398-1900) are your best bets for finding parts and supplies.
Use ChartKit Region 4, pages 9 and 19; Maptech Waterproof Chartbook Upper Chesapeake Bay; or Maptech Waterproof Chart 25. Also, Maptech electronic and NOAA paper chart 12274 (1:40,000).
Navigation and Anchorages
The rather wide mouth of the Sassafras affords an easy entrance into the river. Leave R “2” Fl R 4s to starboard and then swing to the southeast after passing abeam of Ordinary Point. When rounding Ordinary Point, keep G C “3” and G “5” Fl G 6s to your north. There is minimal water north of both buoys. East of Ordinary Point, the channel turns northeast to Fl G 2.5s 15ft 3M “7” at Cassidy Wharf, then back to the southeast. From Fl G 6s 18ft 4M “9” off Knight Island, the channel heads in an easterly direction to the marinas of Georgetown. Just west of the Route 213 bascule bridge is the full-service Sassafras Harbor Marina (410-275-1144). East of the bridge, the river remains navigable for another one-and-one-half miles up to Gregg Neck Boat Yard (410-648-5360), filled with do-it-yourselfers, on the south shore. Give beacons a bit of room since most are stuck in the mud off the points they mark.
The Sassafras is one of the Bay’s most picturesque rivers. The river has a number of secluded anchorages that are great for spending a quiet night, though some of the smaller creeks are silted in and clogged with underwater aquatic plants. Go slowly if you decide to try one. A favorite anchorage is the sheltered northeast side of Ordinary Point, which offers a depth of five to six feet fairly close to shore. Another choice is Turner Creek, south of Ordinary Point. Turner Creek’s seven-foot channel is marked, and be sure to stay close to the buoys. There is space inside to anchor or dock for a while at the small wharf near the Latham House (c.1700). An open-air pavilion atop the hill has tables and grills. Walk the half-mile up the road to the Kent Agricultural Museum (410-348-5721) and 18th century Knock’s Folly. In late summer, the west corner of the creek is filled with enormous American lotus in bloom.
Shoreside and Emergency Services
Aiport: Baltimore Airport 410-859-7100, Philadelphia Airport 215-937-6937
Coast Guard: Baltimore 410-576-2525 or VHF 16
Harbormaster: Kennebunkport 207-967-5040 or VHF 16
Police, Fire, Ambulance: 911
Taxi: D&G Taxi Service 302-376-5727
Tow Service: Sea Tow 800-4SEATOW or VHF 16, TowBoatU.S 800-391-4869 or VHF 16